Safety rides a school bus
When Danny Riedel's bus burned in 1993, he didn't let the sleepless nights and nightmares keep him down.
Though all of the children were safely evacuated from the bus, the incident made the Marysville Joint Unified School District bus driver more concerned than ever about bus safety and the children he is charged with transporting.
It is this passion, Riedel said Tuesday, that spurred him to learn everything he can about his bus, which helped him win two big championships; first place in the annual Sacramento Region, Chapter 6 “School Bus Safety Road-eo” in March; and the Northern Region, Chapter 17 “Road-eo” in Redding April 1.
“I would call it precise, technical driving,” said Riedel, who has driven for the district for 13 years. “It's all about the safety of those kids. I don't ever want to have to tell a parent that their child was hurt.”
Riedel competed with about 30 other drivers in the “Hall of Fame” category, which he described as “the best of the best.”
He took first place in that, along with first place in the Overall High Point category.
“It really means accomplishment to me,” Riedel said. “I'm very competitive in everything I do, but it's not just me winning; I have a team that scares me to death.”
Riedel said his co-workers were within just a few points of him, which he said makes him proud but also makes him try harder.
Riedel's ex-wife, Sandy Riedel, who he describes as a good friend, also drives an MJUSD bus and came within eight points of Riedel's first place in overall points.
Shannon Wise, a first-year driver, competed in the novice category in Sacramento and took first place. In the northern region, she placed 10th out of more than 30.
“You have to know your bus, your turning radius, everything,” Riedel explained. “I want it to be instinct. Out there on the road, you never know
what's going to happen, and I want to be prepared for anything.”
In the rodeos, drivers compete in various categories, including “short-backing crossover” and an event Riedel described as similar to parallel parking.
“You have a 40-foot bus and a 46-foot area, and you have to center it and park within 3 inches without touching the curbs or barriers,” he explained.
Riedel said the main things driving him to be the best in everything he does are his sons; Derrick, who is serving in the U.S. Marines; Danny Jr., serving in the U.S. Army, and his youngest son, Jacob, who just turned 5 and “has so much ahead of him.”
Riedel credited his trainer, Millie Berryhill, who is now retired, and his boss, Director of Transportation Scott Lane, with an endless supply of support. He said because of Berryhill, he knows he will win the state championship someday.
“He's going to state. It's just a matter of when,” he said. “I have complete confidence in Danny. He's disciplined, he's committed, and he's the first one to pitch in and help the other drivers.”
Appeal-Democrat reporter Kymm Mann can be reached at 749-4707 or firstname.lastname@example.org.